After all the talk about Cross Keys being the form team of the Premier and having a much vaunted front row and scrummaging pack it was down to action at 11:30 AM on Saturday morning. Newport's front row of Dai Pattison, Andrew Brown and Gethin Robinson were playing their 131st game together as a unit since 2004 and had made an incredible total of 620 appearances for the club while Keys' s new boys on the block, Richard Cornock, Richard Emms and Marc Jones were playing just their 11th together and the longer the game went on the more it showed. Newport's front row covered acres of ground and never gave an inch in the set pieces - ably supported by the back 5 of Dafydd Rosser, Adam Brown, Adam Joners, Craig Hill and the tireless Dan McShane. To rub salt into the wound, Gethin Robinson - playing his 199th game for the club - forced his way over on 16 mins for Newport's 2nd try. He even then had the cheek to sprint 50 metres in the 2nd half like a threequarter to chase a kick through and cause panic in the Keys' defence.
Newport deservedly won as thbey were the better team in all departments and will look back on why they never got a winning bonus point although they had a couple of "tries" disallowed including one from Matt Evans who was ajudged to have knocked on over the line. Centres Scott Williams, Matt Evans and wings Matt Pewtner and Mike Poole caused the Keys defence many problems with their strong penetrative running.
The match was one to remember for late replacement No 10 Rhys Jones, who had his best game for the club to date and weighed in with 19pts from a try, conversion and 4 penalties.
Cross Keys points came from a try from darting scrum-half Rhys James and a conversion and penalty from No 10 Steffan Jones
Chris Kirwan, SWA writes : Expansive rugby wins the day.
Newport drew first blood in round one of their back-to-back Premiership clashes with Cross Keys but won’t be expecting round two to be so routine. The Black and Ambers eased to a 24-10 win at Rodney Parade that was far more convincing than the scoreline suggests. The hosts were better all over the park and thrived when their pack earned quick ball for their dangerous strike runners. They relished the open expanses of the Parade but it is likely that they will have to dig deeper when they head to Pandy Park on Saturday to play on a surface that is sure to be a tad heavier under foot. Newport will also be up against a Keys pack with a point to prove after being outmuscled, with Black and Ambers’ superiority in jerseys numbered 1, 2 and 3 hard to take for their much-vaunted counterparts. Dai Pattison, Andrew Brown and Gethin Robinson are a tight unit and showed all their experience with an impressive display. They walked the walk at the Parade and want to complete the job by producing the goods at Pandy Park. Much of the Keys’ success this season has been down to their powerful front row but they were nullified in the set piece and exposed in the loose with props Richard Cornock and Marc Jones frequently picked out by the more lithe home runners.
Saturday was a clash of two styles – Newport thriving when getting the ball wide for their dangerous strike runners and Keys preferring to keep it tight and relishing an arm-wrestle. It was the Black and Ambers’ expansive game plan that thrived in the first half and they could, and should, have been much further ahead at the break than 15-3. Makeshift centre Matt Evans cut through the Keys midfield with ease and the only complaint about his performance was that not enough line breaks resulted in scores. But the Canadian international full-back did have a major say in the first try of the game on 16 minutes when he spotted Marc Jones in the defensive line 40 metres out and picked on the prop. Evans started the attack and was a yard short of finishing it when wing Mike Poole returned the ball to him, however it was prop Robinson who had the honour of crossing the whitewash. Rhys Jones, who had got the ball rolling with an early penalty, struck the woodwork with the conversion but made no mistake when adding the extras to his own try on the half hour. Once again it was an Evans break that started the attack and once again the defensive deficiencies of the Keys props that were exposed. The ball came to Rhys Jones inside the 22 and he spotted both Marc Jones and Richard Cornock in front of him. The sevens specialist was far too fleet-footed for the front-rowers and dashed over the line. At 15-3 it looked grim for the visitors and their lack of adventure was summed up by their wingers’ most influential moments coming in defence on the stroke of half-time. Marcus Johnstone and Jamie Davies made terrific tackles on Mike Poole and Matt Evans respectively to just about keep Keys in the game.
Rhys Jones slotted an early penalty in the second half to strengthen Newport’s grip on the game but then the visitors reaped the rewards of finally showing some ambition. The ball was put through the hands and centre Nathan Williams was a yard short of scoring against the club he left last summer. Openside Craig Hill was yellow-carded for killing the ball and while the Newport team watched their teammate trudge off to the sin bin quick-thinking scrum-half Ryan James took a quick tap and dived over. Steffan Jones added the conversion but 18-10 was as close as the visitors were to get, though they did dig in to limit Newport to penalties and prevent them from bagging a four-try bonus.
Expect Keys to try and make it a niggly game from the off at Pandy Park to try and stop the Black and Ambers from hitting their straps. Regardless of Newport’s win, both teams are still involved in a tussle for the last British and Irish Cup place. A home win at Pandy Park would keep Keys in the hunt for a top-half finish, though they need a more expansive game plan if they do make it into the cross-border competition – you need more than a strong set of forwards when up against the English and Irish professionals. But for now Keys’ focus is firmly on Newport. After enjoying Saturday night, Newport eyes are fixed on their Gwent rivals. Soon it will be seconds out, round two. And this one could get messy.
Newport: A Awcock, M Poole (O Broad 45), M Evans, S Williams, M Pewtner, R Jones, J Leadbeater (Josh Davies 65), D Pattison (capt, I Evans 80), Andrew Brown (A Ellis 77), G Robinson, D Rosser, Adam Brown (Alex Jones 67), Adam Jones (A Frampton 78), C Hill, D McShane. Rep dnp : M Leaman. Scorers: Tries – G Robinson, R Jones and R Jones 1c, 4p. Yellow card : Craig Hill 43/55.
Cross Keys: G David, J Davies, N Williams (P Williams 51), L Andrews, M Johnstone, S Jones, R James (O Jones 70), R Cornock, R Emms (G Horrigan 45), M Jones (C Gould 76), D Hodge (R Peebles HT, C Gould 51-62), T Lampard, J Groves, R Nash (capt), R Williams (M Curtis72). Rep dnp N Trowbridge. Scorers: Try – R James and S Jones 1c, 1p. Yellow Cards: R Nash 27/39 and R Cornock 9/22
Referee: David Bodilly (Cardiff). Argus star men: Pattison, Brown, Robinson
Photos courtesy of Simon Latham :